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FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
THE LIVING SACRIFICE.
Romans xii. 1.
I BESEECH YOU THEREFORE, BRETHREN, BY
THE MERCIES OF GOD, THAT YE PRESENT
The leading doctrines of Christianity, comprising the fallen state of man as a transgressor of the holy law of God; the means of pardon and reconciliation with God, and justification before Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; together with the renewing and sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit ; are stated at some length by the apostle Paul in the former part of this epistle to the Romans. Having thus laid the foundation of true religion, by which man is brought back to God, and into a state of peace
with Him; he shows in the latter part of it what kind of superstructure is to be raised upon this foundation, or how those who are accounted righteous before God ought to walk, in order to be pleasing to Him, who has called them by His grace to the knowledge of Himself, and to be His children, or His peculiar people. Their body, soul, and spirit are to be devoted to His service, to the accomplishment of His holy and blessed will. In the portion of holy writ which is appointed by our church as the Epistle for this day, the apostle sums up all the benefits of which he had been speaking in one word, mercies; by which he enforces the obligations under which believers in Christ are laid to live and walk in obedience to the holy law of God. It has been observed that such a system of morals, as the apostle enjoins in this and the following chapters, had never before been exhibited to the world. There is nothing in all the wise precepts of the heathen philosophers to be at all compared with it. All their boasted systems of ethics, however they may be adınired in some respects, fall far short of that which is here delineated as the state of mind and conduct which is pleasing to God. Let us direct our attention,
First, To the argument or motive by which the exhortation in the text is enforced; and then, . Secondly, To the exhortation itself, or what is required of the children of God, with regard to the manner in which they are to conduct themselves so as to please Him.
May the Spirit of God by His grace impress this exhortation deeply upon our minds, and cause us so to feel its force, that we may be led to comply with that which is required of us.
First, The argument or motive by which the exhortation is enforced is drawn from the mercies of God. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God. The mercies of God are the bowels of compassion which He, the Father of mercies, 21 has manifested to the children of men that pity and tender love which induced Him to give His only begotten Son to be the Redeemer of mankind, the Saviour of lost sinners, to obey and to suffer all that was needful for the deliverance of the transgressors of His law from that destruction, which by sin they had brought upon themselves. If these mercies of God have been made known to us, they will have a most powerful and abiding influence over us. When we consider that but for this love of God we must have perished everlastingly, and have lived all our days in this world without any good hope of obtaining future blessedness; but that, in consequence of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, a way of deliverance from the wrath to comeais set before us; and every obstacle which might prevent us from partaking of eternal salvation is removed out of the way; so that whosoever will may come and participate in its blessings; which are bestowed freely, without money and without price,23 upon all who humbly and earnestly apply for them through Christ: when we consider all this, what mercy will that appear to us to be, which confers so great, so undeserved a benefit upon us. Well may we say with the apostle, Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift ;£4 for that unparalleled love and mercy which He has manifested towards the sinful children of men.
21 1 Corinthians i, 3.
The mercy of God in Christ Jesus ought to sink deep into our minds. It is on account of this that we enjoy any of the comforts with which we are favoured. Were it not for this we should have no enjoyment whatever. Life and health, food and raiment, all temporal as well as spiritual blessings, flow to us from the mercies of God. We have forfeited all by sin. Sin exposes us to the wrath of God, and to all the miseries and torments which are endured by those upon whom it abides in the invisible world. Could we lift the veil which conceals this from us, and see the anguish, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, of those who are reserved under
darkness to the judgment of the great day, 25 the consequences of sin would be exposed to our view in a way that would doubtless fill us with the deepest alarm, lest we should be numbered among those who shall drink of the wrath of God for ever. That we are not lifting up our eyes in torments results from the mercies of God. And it is because His mercy endureth for ever, 26 that we are freed from any calamities.
We may see something of the evil of sin in the sufferings to which mankind are exposed from pain of body or mind, from sickness and disease, from the agonies of death. We should not have been liable to any of these things, but for sin. Sin brought death into the world and all our woe. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.27 But the sufferings and miseries to which we are exposed in this life, however great they may be, are nothing in comparison with those which will be endured in eternity by those who shall receive the wages of sina8 hereafter. What an awful description is given of them, when it is said, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels,
25 Jude 6.
26 Ps. cxxxvi. 1.
27 Rom. v. 12.
28 Rom. vi. 23.